God’s Work; God’s Church

Posted: November 4, 2018 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 11:1-18, “God’s Work; God’s Church”

In our culture, it can be easier to say ‘no’ than to say ‘yes.’ We are a contentious people! The moment we’re told to do something, we buck-up & resist doing it…even if we thought it was a good idea in the first place. We love to debate, but more to the point, we love to be right. If it wasn’t already the tendency of our culture, it’s shot through the roof in the age of social media. People debate each other on Facebook & Twitter, usually with zero willingness to change their own minds, and even acknowledging they probably won’t change anyone else’s mind either. Why debate? To win the argument & have the last word. We want to be the ones in the ‘right,’ we want to be viewed as the subject authority.

The same mindset can creep into the church. At times, debate is absolutely necessary – such as when false doctrine needs to be addressed or dangerous practices require correction and rebuke. Other times, contention is absolutely wrong – such as when Christians virtually come to blows over non-essential issues. People will wave the red flag of “heresy,” over minor differences. Interestingly, the word for “heretic” originally did not refer to false teachers, but to the choices of people for different sects, and by extension, to people who caused divisions. Perhaps the person bringing the accusation of heresy is actually the heretic (the divisive one)! 

Peter faced a similar situation when news of his evangelistic meeting with Cornelius got back to Jerusalem. What should have been a celebration of joy over those who were lost being found by Jesus, wasn’t. Instead, it became a bone of contention & potential division as people back in Jerusalem questioned what Peter had allowed to happen in Caesarea with the Roman Gentiles. Of course Peter had not allowed anything; God had. It was God’s work & God’s church. Who was Peter to stand in the way of God? Who is anyone else to do the same?

Much of the context is spoken by Peter in the passage, but some review is necessary. Remember Peter had been travelling throughout Judea, working miracles (just like the Lord Jesus, as Peter followed in His footsteps), and visiting the various church congregations along the way. Eventually Peter ended up in the coastal city of Joppa, where he received a vision from God instructing him to receive as clean the things God had cleansed. Meanwhile, to the north in Caesarea, the Roman centurion Cornelius (a deeply devout man with a sincere, reverent fear of the One True God) had received an angelic visitor, instructing him to send for Peter. His servants went, found Peter according to the angel’s instructions, and all of them returned to Cornelius’ home. Peter preached the gospel, and barely got through the basics about Jesus when the Holy Spirit fell upon them, evidencing their salvation. Though in shock, Peter understood exactly what had happened, commanding the believing Gentiles to be baptized.

It was the first instance of a group of Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus…it wouldn’t be the last! What was unusual at the time would soon become the norm as the gospel spread throughout the Roman empire. The gospel of Jesus Christ may have first been proclaimed among the Jews about their Jewish Messiah, but Jesus was not given only for the Jews. Jesus was given for all the world, so that anyone might be saved!

This had always been the plan of God, and Jesus had made this clear from the very beginning of the church, following His resurrection from the dead. Matthew 28:19–20, “(19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Acts 1:8, “(8) But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” What do these things have in common? A worldwide commission! Jesus is the King of the Jews, but He is more than the King of the Jews; He is the King of the world. His disciples are to testify of Him to the entire world, so that anyone in the world might be saved. He was given for all

Beyond the scope of His salvation, is the scope of His authority. Who’s in charge of the church? Jesus. Irrespective on the form of local church government, be it a local pastor, a board of elders, a congregational vote, a bishop, etc., when a church is a true church of Jesus Christ, then Jesus is its head. Jesus is in charge; it is His church. He has the right to do what He wants with it.

What does any of that have to do with the division and contention seen by Peter when returning to Jerusalem? Everything! God had worked a marvelous miracle of grace in Caesarea, but back in Jerusalem, certain people among the church thought that they knew better. They were willing to rebuke Peter for what he did; in reality, they were rebuking God & rebelling against His authority. They didn’t need to spurn God’s work; they needed to submit to it!

It’s God’s church! So get with the program! See what Jesus is doing, and submit to Him.

Acts 11:1–18

  • Accusation (1-3). Skepticism at the work of God.

1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”

  1. News spread quickly! The church had heard of Peter’s work among the Gentiles before Peter even got back to Jerusalem. That was no easy feat! If it was a 2-day journey to get from Joppa to Caesarea, it was surely longer to get from Caesarea back to Jerusalem. (Perhaps 4 days?) Chapter 10 ended by saying that Peter stayed a few days with Cornelius after the baptism, so perhaps the news went forward as Peter stayed behind. However fast the news went, the entire church in Jerusalem heard – both the “apostles and brethren” knew what happened. Interestingly, there’s no mention of the apostles among those who confronted Peter when he later arrived. It would seem they agreed with what Peter did.
  2. And why not? Just think of what happened: “The Gentiles had also received the word of God.” The word of God = the gospel. To say they received the word is to say they believed the word…they were saved! For the first time in the church’s short history, God directed an entire group of Gentiles to be saved. This should have been good news! The Christians back in Jerusalem should have rejoiced! Jesus said that angels rejoice when those who are lost are found, and any true born-again Christian ought to be overjoyed anytime someone else come to faith in Jesus. It is the greatest thing that can ever happen to a human being! At that point, we not only go from being lost to being found, but from being spiritually dead to being eternally alive. We go from being an enemy of God, to being made a child of God. That is amazing! Celebrations are to be had any time someone comes to faith!
  3. Yet this time, it wasn’t. The circumcised believers (Jewish Christians) had a bone to pick with Peter. To say that they “contended with him” is to say that they passed judgment on him – they took issue with what Peter had done. Interestingly, it wasn’t so much over the fact of evangelism; it was over food. “You…ate with them.” They objected to Peter’s fellowship with the Roman Gentiles. He had gone into Cornelius’ home (something which Peter said at the time was “unlawful,” in that it broke with Jewish custom – Acts 10:28), and he shared a meal with him. Culturally, eating with someone equated to fellowship with someone, and fellowship meant acceptance, perhaps as an equal. To the typical Jewish mind at the time, that was inconceivable with a Gentile. Mutual respect was possible, kindness was part of loving one’s neighbor, but true equality in communion & fellowship? It couldn’t be done.
    1. This seems to be the first hint at the future party of the Judaizers, a group of supposed Christians that later caused all kinds of problems for Paul, who claimed that people had to first become Jews before they could be saved. The smallest seed is seen here, which later grows into full size by Acts 15. Like a cancerous tumor, the legalism of a few metastasized into the legalism of man. (A little leaven, leavens the whole lump!)
  4. Question: What’s the big deal? If Peter sinned in the eyes of the Jewish circumcised Christians, fine, but why would they throw such a big fit about it? Because what Peter did as an apostle affected more than just himself. He was a representative of the church as a whole, and the rest of the Jews in Jerusalem (unbelieving Jews) would have heard the same news and come to the same judgment of Peter and all Christians. (Longenecker, EBC) “Peter had set aside Christianity’s Jewish features and thereby seriously endangered its relation with the nation.” IOW, Peter potentially opened the door for further persecution, with the Jews justifying it saying that Christianity was no longer based in Judaism. (Perhaps this is seen in Acts 12:3, when the Jews rejoiced at Herod’s execution of James.)
    1. Today we remember the persecuted church around the world, but we cannot forget that we ourselves might one day be part of the number. One day, Christians elsewhere might be praying for us, that we would stand strong to the gospel! We don’t seek out persecution, but we need not fear it. If holding fast to the gospel invites persecution, so be it. We must be true to Jesus & His word!
  5. BTW – The Christians who confronted Peter were in the wrong, but notice what they did not do: they didn’t treat Peter like the pope. They didn’t assume Peter was infallible, never able to do anything wrong. Even as a leader among the church, they didn’t treat Peter as if he was some kind of king. They (hopefully) confronted him in love and respect (Scripture doesn’t indicate their tone), but they treated Peter as if he was simply a Christian…because that was what he was.
  6. The problem here wasn’t the questioning of Peter; it was the questioning of God. Peter could (and should) have been corrected if he had done something wrong, but he hadn’t. God had taken him to that place, directed him to do what he did, and God is the one who chose to make His work so obvious to Peter that Peter had no other choice other than to command the Gentiles to be baptized. Yet what was the concern of the Jerusalem circumcision? That Peter went into a Gentile’s house? They were so concerned about their traditions and preferences that it undercut the entire work of God towards someone else’s salvation.
    1. Have you ever been skeptical at God’s work? Perhaps you looked at someone & without speaking with them, knew they couldn’t be saved. Who is impossible for God to reach with the gospel? No one! Who is so lost in sin that they cannot be saved by Christ? None! There are no limits as to what our God can do…don’t question Him! Should there be evidence of faith (fruit)? Of course, and where there is sin we should lovingly call it what it is and help a less mature brother or sister bear his/her burden and be restored in correction (Gal 6:1-2). But may we never place limits on the love and the grace of God! If He saved us, He can save anyone!

So this was the problem. Peter has come back to judgmental, critical people against something that was glorious. They had set forth their accusation; it was time for him to explain what had happened. If they were skeptical against the work of God, he needed to show them the work of God. Much of his explanation is a recap of the events of Acts 10, so there isn’t a need to revisit the details, but there are a few things that need to be seen along the way.

  • Explanation (4-17). Seeing the work of God.

4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.

  1. Reviewed Acts 10:9-16, Peter’s lunchtime vision. Remember that he had been staying the home of Simon the tanner, and around noon Peter went up to the flat rooftop to pray. There, he became hungry & fell into this ecstatic trance. It was as if Peter was outside his body experiencing these things. He saw this sheet full of non-kosher animals, and received a command from the Lord to slaughter them for food & to eat them. The act should have rendered him totally unclean (which is why Peter resisted), but Peter shouldn’t have refused. Why? God had declared it all to be clean.
  2. The lesson? He wasn’t supposed to question God’s work. It wasn’t up to Peter to deny what God said or did; Peter was supposed to receive it. What God gave was of God, and God is in charge. Servants don’t pass judgment on their Sovereign, and Jesus is the Sovereign King. God cleansed what Peter originally thought to be beyond cleansing, so Peter should have received it as being clean. (Which is good enough news regarding diet, but far better regarding people!)
  3. Notice verse 6: “When I observed it intently and considered.” When telling the story to the Jerusalem Christians, Peter made it clear that he carefully considered his actions. He looked at the sheet, and he knew exactly what was there…this was why he refused three times to eat. The point? This wasn’t a haphazard whim. Peter hadn’t lost sight of his Jewishness or decided to cast aside his heritage. He was being led of the Lord.
  4. Beyond God’s work in Peter’s vision was God’s work at the front door…

11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.

  1. Summary of 10:17-20. Peter was so lost in his vision on the roof that he neither saw the servants from Cornelius arrive at the house, nor heard them asking for him by name. The Holy Spirit had to speak to Peter, telling him what was happening & instructing him on what to do next.
  2. There’s one additional detail here that wasn’t in Chapter 10: “six brethren” went with Peter as witnesses. Earlier, the number wasn’t said, but Peter likely pointed straight to the group of men who had returned from Caesarea with him. He had a lot of backup in his testimony. Among the Hebrews, only 2-3 witnesses were required to establish an event as true. God saw fit to equip Peter with 3-times the amount! The church in Jerusalem did not have to rely upon the sole word of Peter as to what he did; they had six other people that could be questioned, and (in this case) verify everything he said was true.
  3. Notice it was the Spirit who told Peter to go, and likewise in verse 13, it was the angel who told Cornelius to call for Simon Peter by name. (Robertson) “Perhaps Peter is anxious to make it plain that he did not go of his own initiative into the house of Cornelius. He went under God’s orders.” This is one more demonstration of God’s ownership of His church. God chose to give the gospel to Gentiles. God chose to use Peter to preach the gospel to them. It was all God’s plan and God’s doing. Peter saw & recognized it at the time; he was trying to get the others to see it as well.

13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’

  1. Summary of 10:30-33. Interestingly, Cornelius is never mentioned by name, nor his position as a Roman centurion. Surely that was already known, being part of the news that preceded Peter’s return to Jerusalem. Even so, Peter isn’t recorded as saying it. Perhaps he thought it would just remind the others of how scandalous the whole thing seemed. (Which wasn’t a scandal at all; it was wonderful!)
  2. Some new info here: in addition to giving Cornelius the name of Peter & address of where Peter was staying, the angel apparently told Cornelius a hint of Peter’s message. Peter would tell them “words by which you and all your household will be saved.” Question: Is anyone saved by words? Words are just words. Anyone can repeat the words of a prayer & have it mean nothing. Anyone can read the words on a gospel tract & remain unchanged. Words have no magic powers – they don’t do anything in & of themselves. (Which is one reason religious rituals have little meaning. Just because a priest spoke words over something doesn’t mean that God did anything.) The issue isn’t the words; it is the message behind the words. Words alone do not save, but when those words point us to Jesus, then Jesus saves!
    1. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that words aren’t important; they are! God has given us His written word in the Bible, and God uses the spoken word of the gospel to bring people to faith in Christ. (Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom 10:17) But it is Jesus’ work at the cross & resurrection that saves us; not the words that describe His work. We lose sight of this when we start placing too much importance on stuff like the so-called “sinner’s prayer.” We think “I know little Johnny is saved, because he recited the prayer!” If Johnny is saved, it is because Johnny has real faith in Jesus & what Jesus did at the cross for him; it’s not because Johnny repeated the prayer spoken by a Sunday School teacher or pastor.
    2. The point? Don’t look only for words; look for what is behind the words. Look for Jesus!

15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

  1. Summary of 10:44-46. Peter hadn’t finished preaching when “the Holy Spirit fell upon them.” Peter had proclaimed the basics of the good news of Jesus, but that was it. There was no time for an invitation or an altar-call – Peter didn’t even have time to elaborate on what he already said. The Holy Spirit decided to fall, and He fell. He came upon the friends and family of Cornelius in a big way, baptizing them into their salvation in Christ, and empowering them to speak in tongues (languages unknown to them). If the work of God had been evident before (Cornelius’ angel, Peter’s vision, the Spirit’s spoken direction), surely it was evident now! The Spirit’s work was in plain sight.
  2. At that moment in Caesarea, Peter remembered two things. First, Peter remembered Pentecost. Back in Acts 2 (however long ago it was…the chronology is somewhat unclear), the Christians in Jerusalem experienced the exact same thing. They were gathered together in prayer, waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit, exactly as Jesus had instructed them to do. That’s when little flames (tongues) of fire appeared on the heads of the believers, and all of them spoke the praises of God in languages (tongues) they had never known. The parallel between the Pentecost Jewish believers and the Caesarea Gentiles was undeniable. The Spirit had done the exact same thing with each of them – proof that Jesus had saved them.
  3. Second, Peter remembered Jesus’ teaching. Shortly before the experience at Pentecost, Jesus prepared them for what was going to happen. Acts 1:4–5, “(4) And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; (5) for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”” Just as John the Baptist had told the crowds that although he baptized with water, the Messiah would baptize with fire, so did Jesus tell the disciples that this new fiery spiritual baptism was about to arrive. And it did, on Pentecost.
  4. Question: If only two witnesses were needed in Jewish culture to prove an event true, how many witnesses did Peter have regarding the validity of what happened? Peter had the testimonies of God the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus Christ. When Peter saw what happened at the house of Cornelius, he didn’t need to speculate whether it was the work of God. He didn’t need to gather the six Christians for a committee meeting – he didn’t need to write out the pro’s & con’s – he didn’t need to roll the dice or guess; Peter knew because God made it obvious. God testified to what He did, and God’s testimony was enough!
  5. That was why Peter acted the way he did…

17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

  1. The word “withstand” = prevent/hinder. It was the same word used of the Ethiopian eunuch with Philip when the Ethiopian came across water after hearing the gospel. “What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36) What would prevent him – what would stand in the way? (Nothing!) Likewise here. God had directed Peter to this place, and God had done this magnificent work among Cornelius’ family that God had always said He would do. Who was Peter to stand in the way? Peter was just a man, but God is God! Peter did not presume himself to know better than God or to argue with Him. When God works among God’s church, God’s people aren’t supposed to argue; we’re supposed to follow.
    1. When was the last time you argued with God about His work? Notice the question is “when”; not “have you,”…we’ve all argued with God at some point! We all have times when we somehow come to the conclusion that the all-knowing, all-powerful God doesn’t see the full picture & that we (as limited created beings doomed to destruction, if not for the grace of God through Jesus) have a better idea. The word “presumptuous” doesn’t even capture it!
  2. For all the flack that people give Peter because of his tendency to rush ahead (ready, shoot, aim!), he ought to be commended! In this, he did the right thing. He may have originally been hesitant in his vision, but once directed by the Spirit to go to Caesarea, he went. He even went into the home of a Gentile, and faithfully preached the gospel. Then, once witnessing the obvious work of the Holy Spirit, Peter followed through with baptism, not being willing to stand in the way of God. Well done! Would that all of us be that obedient & that observant to the things of God! That said, just because Peter learned the lesson and did the right thing in Joppa and Caesarea, and strongly defended it in Jerusalem, doesn’t mean he always remembered it. Peter had his own time of second-guessing the things of God. Later, Paul wrote to the Galatians of an instance when Peter adopted a prejudice against the Gentile Christians while in Antioch, refusing to eat with them. Paul quickly recognized the danger & confronted Peter to his face (Gal 2:11-14). Here in Acts 10-11, Peter saw that the Lord showed no difference between Jew & Gentile in the gospel promise, and indeed, that was the main point of his Joppa vision. Even so, he later lost sight – he fell into old habits & allowed himself to bow to peer pressure when Jewish Christians from Jerusalem showed up in Antioch. Just because you learn a lesson once doesn’t mean you won’t have to learn it all over again. Just because you do the right thing once doesn’t mean that’s the only time you have to do it. When you see the work of God, stay in the work of God! Be careful you don’t fall back into presumption, where we start telling God what He can or cannot do.
  3. The main point in the lesson learned by Peter is simple: God makes no distinction among His people! How could Peter stand in the way of God, when God treated Jew & Gentile the same? They may have had different backgrounds, but they had exactly the same need: they were all sinners in need of salvation. Both Simon Peter the Jew and Cornelius the Gentile had rebelled against God & were due His judgment until Jesus died in their place, offering each of them the same gift of forgiveness. There is one God, one gospel, and one people resulting from it. Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are one in Christ Jesus! As long as we have faith in the Lord Jesus, there is no difference between us. (None that counts.) To Paul’s list in Galatians, we can add any other form of perceived status. God does not love pastors more than parishioners. Jesus did not make a greater sacrifice for celebrities than the average Joe. We are all of equal value in His sight, thus we should treat one another as equal value within the church!
    1. That includes your own background. You may have been convicted of felonies, yet in Christ you are no different from the guy who’s never had a traffic ticket. Or maybe you’re the one who’s never been in a day’s trouble, yet you require just as much salvation as the guy with a record a mile-long. We are all sinners in need of Jesus, and anyone who is saved has been saved by Jesus’ same sacrifice. Don’t make distinctions where God does not!
    2. Isn’t it wonderful to be one? Think of how divided our culture is today. Everything is political, and every time we turn around there is another battle to be fought. These days news cycles are measured in terms of hours, rather than weeks. Yet there is one place where those differences can be left behind: at the foot of the cross. Look around the room, and you’ll see people with vastly different backgrounds than you (different educations, different income, etc.), but in Jesus, those differences don’t matter. In Jesus, we are all sinners saved by grace!

The accusation was leveled against Peter with the people’s skepticism. Peter explained himself, showing what God had done with Cornelius. Now it was time for the people’s response…and it was good!

  • Acceptance (18). Submitting to the work of God.

18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

  1. Objections were silenced & accusation turned to praise. What made the difference? They recognized the work of God in saving the Gentiles, and they submitted/surrendered to it. No longer did they presume to know better than God. Sure, God worked in a way they didn’t expect (although they should have expected it, considering Jesus told them what would happen), but it wasn’t up to them to question God; it was up to them to follow God. God had obviously worked, so God was to be glorified and praised. He had granted salvation to the Gentiles. He had taken the gospel to people who would have never have come to Jerusalem (who wouldn’t have been welcomed in Jerusalem!), and God saved them just like He saved anyone else. What response could there be, other than surrendered praise? Hallelujah!
    1. There is a wonderful freedom that comes with simple surrender to the Lord! We expect unbelievers to rebel against God, but we don’t always expect Christians to do it…yet we do. Often it’s when we slip into old habits of familiar sin, but sometimes it’s in the newer sin of resistance. Keep in mind we can sin in two ways: commission & omission – through the things we do & the things we don’t do. When we don’t follow Jesus in simple obedience & submission, it’s just as sinful as when we choose to do our sinful habits of the past. Choosing not to follow Jesus is the same as walking in another direction. The danger for the Jerusalem Christians was that they were originally choosing not to follow; thankfully they made another choice & found freedom to praise God.
    2. We can all make a different choice! The Gentiles in Caesarea weren’t the only ones who needed to repent; so did the Christians in Jerusalem who resisted the work of God. When they did, they found freedom. So can you! In what have you been skeptical against the Lord, fighting against His will, refusing to follow Christ? Change your mind, change your direction. Repent, and find freedom to glorify God! 
  2. Don’t miss how the church described the work of God: He “granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” The Greek preposition for “to” is normally translated “into,” as in “repentance into” Different Bible versions try to get this idea across in different ways. NASB/ESV: “repentance that leads to life,”; NIV: “repentance unto life,”; HCSB: “repentance resulting in life.” There is a relationship between repentance & eternal life that cannot be separated. Repentance is not a work that earns eternal life, but repentance always accompanies & precedes eternal life. How can this be? Ephesians 2:8–9, “(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.” It’s clear we’re saved by grace through faith & not by works. Is not faith simply belief? No! Belief is part of saving faith, but it is not all of saving faith. You can believe certain truths and facts without doing anything with those facts. I can believe that a parachute will drop me from falling to my death, but you’re not going to convince me to jump out of an airplane. In that case, belief in the effectiveness of a parachute does me nothing. The Bible tells us that when it comes to the truth of God & the person of Jesus, even the demons believe the fact, enough so that they shudder & tremble in fear (Jas 2:19), yet the demons are not saved. True saving faith is a combination of belief and repentance. It is our hearts, heads, and hands all working together. After all, how do we know when what we claim to believe is our real belief? It’s when our actions back it up – it’s when we put our money where our mouth is & put on the parachute. Repentance (a change of mind & action) is simply outward evidence of inward belief. Without the former, the latter doesn’t exist. This is why repentance leads to life.
  3. And it is a gift! Again, how can we know that true biblical repentance can never be thought of as a work of man? Because it is the gift of God. Look again at what the church recognized: “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance into life.” God gave Cornelius & the other Gentiles their repentance, just like He gave us our saving faith. It is His free gift to all who respond to Jesus as Savior and Lord.
    1. How does someone receive the gift of God? Ask! Matthew 7:7–8, “(7) “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” God delights in giving the gift of repentance & faith unto salvation! All you need to do is ask.

Conclusion:

When Peter showed up in Jerusalem, what should have been a celebration of joy quickly turned into a point of contention. People priding themselves on their traditions and background were skeptical at the work of God & became critical of the things Peter had done. Peter didn’t lose his cool – he simply explained himself, showing the others the obvious work of God, freely admitting how God had directed him & that he had no right to stand in the way. Thankfully, the people responded as they should have: accepting & submitting to the work of God among them. (And thus the celebration wasn’t denied; it was merely delayed.)

What was it that was really the issue? Authority. The Jerusalem Christians thought they knew better than Peter, when Peter hadn’t really made any of these decisions on his own. It was all the work of God. It was God’s work done within God’s church. God is the authority; we are simply to follow Him.

Christian: beware that you do not stand in the way of God – that you don’t second-guess the work of your Savior. If we call Jesus “Lord,” then we ought to surrender to Him the authority that is His. Jesus said that He will build His church (Mt 16:18), and we need to trust Him to do it the way He sees best. That means we stop questioning who can/can’t be saved. It means we stop thinking God can’t do something new or different. It means we stop thinking that we know the better way to accomplish the goal. No – we do it God’s way, because it’s God’s church. 

That’s true for us as individuals. We don’t second-guess Jesus when He gives us clear direction in His Scripture. Sometimes the Spirit might lead us as He led Peter, but most often He will speak to us through His word. We need to see it, and submit to it for what it is. That means when God says to forgive, we forgive. When God says we need to be generous, we’re generous; when we are to tell someone else about Jesus (even if we don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in Texas that the person can be saved), we tell them. Follow Jesus, because it is His church, and He knows what He’s doing!

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